GLOUCESTER captain Marco Bortolami has been named Italian player of 2006 by the coaches in the Italian Championship.
Bortolami, who has led Gloucester to second place in the Guinness Premiership following his summer move to Kingsholm, won the award from all the current players playing in Italy and abroad.
He was nominated thanks to his leadership qualities at both club and international level and for his outstanding contribution to the Italian team in the 2006 Six Nations.
Bortolami told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "I would like to thank all the coaches who voted for me, I always work hard and it nice to see that people appreciate me.
"The Italian team and Gloucester Rugby are very important because they gave me the possibility to play very good rugby. It is a huge honour for me to be captain of my country and also Gloucester and I always give my utmost to both teams."
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "Marco certainly deserves this accolade - he would be an asset to any side in the Six Nations and has been instrumental for us this season."
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).